Study Guide -- Part 1


The Purposes behind this Course Curriculum

This course serves two purposes. One is to expose you to a tradition of literature, in the hopes of expanding your cultural worldview and cultivating an appreciation for the human experience. The other is to improve your ability to interpret language and form sound arguments, both in writing and speech.
Purpose #1: Expanding your worldview. When you graduate and enter the workforce, you will eventually discover a frustrating phenomenon that I like to call “the glass ceiling.” The glass ceiling originally referred to subtle institutional discrimination against women and people of color, but I apply it equally to all people who reach middle management and can “see” the next promotion they deserve, but cannot attain it. The classic example is someone who has worked in a company for fifteen years and reaches junior management but watches in agony as someone younger with less experience captures the elusive “director” position.
The glass ceiling works through unquantifiable standards of professional worth. At the beginning of your career, your skills are the most important qualification. The question is: are you good at your company’s basic activity – crunching numbers, running lab experiments, drawing blood, programming television shows, selling car insurance? As you progress, however, your industrial skills are taken as a given and the threshold for promotion changes. You have to manage others well, present a company professionally to the outside world, and be well-spoken and “cultured.” You have to prove that you are sophisticated, visionary, and worldly. You need to think on a grand scale, put short-term stresses in perspective, and deal sensitively with different kinds of people.
A liberal arts education forces you to take many subjects (such as literature, art history, history, philosophy, etc.) whose purpose may seem remote from your life goals. In the first ten years after college, you are likely to feel that much of what you learned does not apply to your job. But in the long run, people who know a lot about the world are more interesting and better spoken than those who only know how to do the finite tasks associated with their job. You’ve heard the depressing adage that “it isn’t what you know but who[m] you know.” To get ahead it’s necessary to impress others in casual conversation. Assuming that you don’t become pretentious, if you are articulate and cultured, you will appear confident and likable, and nobody can condescend to you.
Purpose #2: Improving your skills of writing, reading, and interpretation. There is a brutally practical side to this class as well. Writing and reading are two of the most important skills in life, irrespective of your field of work. In an article by the CNN/Associated Press, dated 16 December 2005, researchers found that 5% of the American adult population is “not literate in English” and 44% have only “intermediate prose skills, meaning they can do moderately challenging activities” such as “consulting a reference book to determine which foods contain a certain vitamin” (Associated 1). What the article does not discuss, however, is the flip side of the bleak statistics – around half the population is equipped with basic reading skills, and therefore, in order to get ahead of the national average, your reading skills have to be more complex, extensive, and multilayered.
This course begins with the Aeneid, a lyrical epic full of confusing allusions from 2,000 years ago, which you won’t understand without taking careful notes and paying close attention to lectures. You may wonder why you are being forced to concentrate so intently on a book that’s frankly hard to understand. Why not read something a little more accessible? To surpass your competitors in the twenty-first-century job market, you cannot rely on a mere ability to read. You have to be able to read quickly and read a lot, and you cannot depend on books to format information in an easy-to-follow framework. You have to figure out what matters, catch innuendoes, and interpret statements accurately. You need to accustom yourself to doing outside research to clarify the parts of reading that you can’t grasp. By the time you become a leader in your field, everything important that you read will be “hard to understand.” For example, to establish the competency levels of the college-educated workforce, the National Adult Literacy Survey prioritizes the ability to “read and interpret texts (prose), to obtain or act on information contained in tabular or graphic displays (document), and to understand numbers of graphs and perform calculations (qualitative)” (National, “Measuring” 13). All three of these skills point to your need to find hidden information and turn it into knowledge without a ready-made format.
Your writing has to be intelligent and spotless. Any grammatical or spelling errors, no matter how small, can prove fatal. The “masses” of your generation are not illiterate trade workers, but rather, by and large college-educated. Despite the tendency of pundits to bemoan cultural ignorance in the United States, a June 2005 press release by the Stanford Graduate School of Business reports that “88% of the nation’s post-secondary students aspire to attend college, the highest percentage in the nation’s history.” Forty-four percent of those who attend college are now enrolled in community colleges and are likely to obtain a functional literacy that would have been considered the trappings of an elite one hundred years ago (Venezia 1). To be part of a working “elite,” you need to stay ahead of rising literacy levels in the college-educated demographic, even if the literacy levels among non-college-educated people are dropping.
The job market that awaits you is ambiguous and full of mixed signals. The National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education reported in November 2005 that “there will likely be a substantial increase in the percentage of the workforce with less than a high school diploma” between 2000 and 2020. Yet you must not assume that therefore your college education will easily place you at a critical advantage, because even with this decline, 61% of Americans will have taken some college classes, and 26% of Americans will have a BA or Bachelor’s degree or higher. Nine percent of the American adult population will have a graduate or professional degree by the time you are mid-career (National, “Policy” 1).
The college-education craze in the United States persists even in the face of daunting financial barriers. In 2004, states spent $69 billion financing their public colleges to make it easier for residents to get advanced degrees (National, “Measuring” 17), while an additional $13 billion in direct financial aid went to students from colleges’ particular scholarship funds, and even more came from federal sources like the Pell Grant program (National, “Losing” 3). Tuition at public and private colleges is still rising more quickly than family incomes or external subsidies, however. In 1980, the average American family had to allot 18% of its annual income to educate one child at a private college. By 2000, that allotment rose to 25%. The corresponding increase for public colleges was from 4% to 6% (“Losing” 2).
Even with growing economic barriers, 94% of Americans think “every high school student who wants a four-year college degree should have the opportunity to earn one” (American 1). The American economy is changing rapidly toward information-based industries that require higher levels of education, and nobody wants to bear the brunt of the estimated 2% drop in per capita income that will affect working adults in the United States between 2000 and 2020. The forecasted 2% decline in average income is unprecedented. By contrast, incomes went up by 41% between 1980 and 2000. The new trend of shrinking incomes will be disproportionately wrought on the uneducated, who have far fewer options in menial trades than earlier generations (National, “Policy” 1).
As high school graduates now struggle to get the precious Associate’s or Bachelor’s degree, they are willing to assume heavy debts and work long hours. At public schools, students in the middle quintile of family income levels took on an average of $6,300 in educational debt in 1990, while in 2000 that average rose to almost $13,000 and it continues to grow (National, “Losing” 5). Various coping mechanisms have arisen to accompany the growing debts, including longer work hours, reduced course loads, and longer time frames for graduating.
What does all of this have to do with this class? A lot. You are here to get important experience interpreting texts, presenting your own theories, and debating – all activities that are a premium in your future career. When I say “premium,” I am not speaking metaphorically. These skills carry an identifiable—and expensive—price tag, so what you do here is a financial as well as spiritual investment. My goal is to keep you as far ahead of the national curve as possible, which means that you need to read quickly, interpret accurately, and write effectively, so that you stand out in a generation overflowing with college-educated job-seekers. For these purposes, your reading and writing assignments need to be harder, not easier. You need to be challenged. Reading and writing are like muscles; they only strengthen with exercise.


American Association of College & University Educators. “Surveys Find High Level of Public Confidence in Higher Education but Growing Concern about College Access.” June 2004. AAC&U News: A Newsletter for and about Our Members. 16 Dec 2005. <>.
Associated Press. “No advances made in adult literacy, study says.” 15 Dec 2005. Cable News Network. 16 Dec 2005. <
National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education [NC].
----“Losing Ground.” 2005. Higher Education. 16 Dec 2005. <>.
----“Measuring Up 2004: the National Report Card on Higher Education.” 2004. Higher Education. 16 Dec 2005. <>
----“Policy Alert: Income of US Workforce Expected to Decline.” Nov 2005. Higher Education. 16 Dec 2005. <>.
Venezia, Andrea. “Bad Preparation Puts Community College Students at Risk.” June 2005. Stanford University Research. 16 Dec 2005. <>.

Participation (200 points/20%)

This portion of your grade will not be calculated until the end of the semester. When you turn in a folder containing all the work you did during the semester (including drafts and corrected versions with comments), the professor will do a review of your performance in the following areas: (1) contributions to class discussion, (2) effort, (3) engagement with feedback on papers, (4) attendance/timeliness, (5) academic integrity, (6) conduct. The participation grade is essentially subject to the professor’s discretion. Absences and lateness will be weighed against your strengths in the other areas, and rewards/penalties will be adjusted according to your personal circumstances. To get a better sense of the professor’s expectations regarding participation, I urge you to read the attached document, “Everything you need to know about cheating and plagiarism” very carefully.

Eugène Delacroix,
Cleopatra and the Peasant, 1838

Short Research Assignments


The following cautionary notes apply for these short research essays:

  • Articles or books that you find through a recognized library database like the MLA International Bibliography are the most valid sources, associated with an “A” range paper.

  • The vast majority of Internet sources that you will find by doing a Google search are worthless. At best, such sources are associated with “B-” level work, but for the most part they hover around “C” level.

  • Even if you do choose to go to a Google-style Internet source, any source that you submit must have an established author, such as an individual with scholarly credentials or an institution, such as “the Rand Corporation,” “the American Enterprise Institute,” etc. Sources with no author are worthless and correspond automatically to “D” level work.

  • Even though you are doing research, remember that your purpose is still to explain something about the primary text. Your main response to the question has to be based on things found in the primary text, and the outside sources are merely backing that point up. “A” range papers will quote the primary text to make their theses specific and clear. Papers that do not quote the primary text at all begin at the “B-” or “C” range and go down from there.

  • Make sure that you do not rely too heavily on one critic or one institution. Much of what you research will be affected by political opinion or hidden agendas. For instance, when you do an early assignment on marriage rituals, you will probably come across countless recent articles/websites discussing the importance of heterosexual marriage in ancient cultures; most of these are actually written as part of the debate over gay marriage. Many such articles provide misleading or incorrect information. “A” range papers cite works that represent a range of possible angles on their topic. “B” range papers cite multiple sources, but their sources are lopsidedly on one side of the range of possible interpretations. “C” and “D” range papers only cite one author or one publication/institution.

  • When doing research, your academic reputation will depend on how ethically you distinguish between other people’s ideas and your own work. Because of the way that intellectuals now define plagiarism, there is no such thing as an “honest” mistake. You must own a copy of the MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers. Everything you quote, summarize, or paraphrase must be cited correctly according to the guidelines in that handbook. Any assignment turned in with more than two citation or formatting errors will be returned to you, ungraded. Likewise, I do not consider your “intent” when I determine whether you have violated the rules of academic integrity – consult my attached document entitled “Everything you need to know about cheating and plagiarism.” Take this very seriously.

  • I am assuming that you learned how to structure and proofread your essays in English 101. All mechanical, stylistic, and citation flaws carry penalties of .5-2 points. Please read my attached documents, “Top Weaknesses in Student Papers” and “Professionalism and Good Faith.”

Mock Trials

Purpose of mock trials: Most real-world writing takes place around projects. Often you depend on other people. Typically it will go along with a verbal presentation. In the real world, when you are expected to write, deadlines are crucial and something very important is usually at stake – perhaps a big contract, or if you are a lawyer, the solvency of a company or even someone’s life. For all these reasons, mock trials are an opportunity to see how your writing and research skills would be applied in real life.

Prosecutors: It is the job of this team to name the charges against the defendant (Aeneas, Turnus, Mr. Von Waggener, or Pompey) and then to prove the defendant’s guilt, taking into account the likely counterarguments of the defense team.
(1)   The prosecution team has to come up with charges, wording them very carefully.
(2)   The prosecution team must produce one trial brief, of the length the team members find appropriate, arguing against the defendant and naming the witnesses they plan to call [depending on how many people are in the witness pool, you will be able to call two or three; your professor always acts as the accuser and the defendant.] This trial brief should be turned in, using the proper format of a regular essay and NOT the format of an actual legal brief that you may have seen in the US court system. When you turn in the brief, you should provide enough copies so that the defense team, the judge (your instructor), and the witnesses can all have their own copy.
(3)   On the week of the trial, one team member must deliver the opening statement.
(4)   During the course of the trial, the team members should pose questions to the witnesses during live questioning. The burden of preparing these questions should be borne equally by all team members.
(5)   At the end of the trial, another team member should deliver the closing statement. It should not be the same person who gave the opening statement.

Defenders: It is your job to defend the accused. You will have to wait a little until the prosecutors submit their trial brief. You have one weekend after receiving the prosecution team’s paper, to respond with your own paper.
(1)   Your team should respond to the charges but also, if you do A level work, your paper will introduce a new angle and perhaps suggest a different way to read the text.
(2)   In your response, you need to name the witnesses you are going to call to the stand [depending on how many people are in the witness pool, you will be able to call two or three; your professor always acts as the accuser and the defendant.]
(3)   At the beginning of the trial, one team member should deliver the opening statement.
(4)   During the course of the trial, the team members should pose questions to the witnesses during live questioning. The burden of preparing these questions should be borne equally by all team members.
(5)   At the end of the trial, another team member should deliver the closing statement. It should not be the same person who gave the opening statement.

Jury: Your team decides the verdict. Because of this, you need to remain as objective as possible and avoid discussing the trial with your friends, if your friends are on one of the opposing sides. Don’t let on to which way you are leaning. You have to wait a long time before doing any work, but as soon as the trial closes, you have to work in a very tight timeframe, because you have to present a verdict on the following Tuesday.
(1)   You need to read the papers submitted as the teams turn them in.
(2)   You need to pay close attention during the trial itself.
(3)   As a team you need to draw up a decision paper, which should be formatted like a regular class essay.
(4)   On the Tuesday following the end of the trial, as a team you will come before the class and each juror will explain the issues that led him or her to vote in a certain direction.
(5)   You will have to respond to brief questions from your classmates [try not to get flustered and don’t take anything personally!] If the jurors’ votes are tied, the professor breaks the ties.

Courtroom Rules: Mock trials can be extremely fun, but don’t try to mimic an actual courtroom the way you’ve seen them in Law and Order. There is no “law” to which the case refers, so do not format your papers like legal documents and don’t lay it on too thick with legal jargon. When I give instructions to the jury, I tell them that they are to resort to “the principles of their own conscience,” meaning that I cannot provide them with legal guidelines, and they have to decide a verdict based entirely on the cases presented to them, according to how they understand and interpret language.

Not Taking It Too Personally: In the past, when I’ve done mock trials, I’ve found myself in more than one melee. In the heat of it, it’s easy to become upset. Because of that, I do not do “objections” and I ask people to limit their questioning of each witness to a specific number of minutes. Just play it cool and be professional with your classmates.

Taking It Seriously: It sounds silly, but the trial is a much richer experience if your team takes the whole thing seriously. Come to the trial dressed the way you would go to a job interview or a conference on which your career depended. Be presentable and rehearse the things you say; such things will also help you win over the jury.